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CDC head says COVID-19 is becoming 'pandemic of the unvaccinated'

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the Delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading particularly in communities with smaller vaccination rates. File Pool Photo by Greg Nash/UPI
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the Delta variant of COVID-19 is spreading particularly in communities with smaller vaccination rates. File Pool Photo by Greg Nash/UPI | License Photo

July 16 (UPI) -- The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Friday that the unvaccinated are fueling the United States' recent uptick in COVID-19 cases.

Director Rochelle Walensky said the Delta variant of the novel coronavirus was spreading particularly in areas of the country that have lower vaccination rates.

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"This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated," she said during a White House press briefing. "We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage, because unvaccinated people are at risk."

According to the CDC, there were nearly 40,000 new cases and 285 deaths reported in the United States on Thursday, both upswings from lows recorded earlier in the summer.

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Walensky said the United States has a seven-day average of about 26,000 new COVID-19 cases each day, a nearly 70% increase over a week ago. Meanwhile, she said about 97% of people hospitalized with the virus are unvaccinated.

The CDC says 185.42 million people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 160.69 million are fully vaccinated -- roughly half the U.S. population.

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"The good news is if you are fully vaccinated, you are protected against severe COVID, hospitalization and death and are even protected against the known variants, including the Delta variant, circulating in the country," Walensky said.

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President Joe Biden, meanwhile, accused social media platforms such as Facebook of spreading false information about COVID-19 and vaccines.

"They're killing people," he said of the platforms. "The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they're killing people."

Facebook rebutted Biden's comments, with spokeswoman Dani Lever saying the company "will not be distracted by accusations which aren't supported by the facts."

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"The fact is that more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the Internet," she said in a statement to ABC News. "More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine. The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period."

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